Gain and Loss, Pleasure and Pain – Take a Break!

August 15, 2023

It has been a busy year of traveling, biking, and agility training and trialing with Louie. Luckily, I have been in great physical shape for all of it, until now. After a pause over the winter, Louie and I got back to trialing in the spring, and he earned his Open Jumpers with Weaves title at the Princeton trial in April – hurray! On one hand it is great to earn a new title and advance to the next level, on the other hand, then you have to advance to the next level where the courses are longer and harder and you are allowed fewer, or no mistakes. After Greece and Idaho, I had us registered for three weekend trials in a row in the hope of getting our Open Standard title at one of those events. It was a tremendous high to have a clean run and get a qualifying score and the third needed leg for the title on the first day back in the competition ring. The next weekend, we were finally with all the “big kids” in the advanced courses, and even though Louie did really well and stayed with me with minimal mistakes, we didn’t qualify in either the Excellent Jumpers class or our first time at Excellent Standard. The third weekend was a bust for Louie and for me.

I hadn’t slept well the night before because of a home repair emergency right before bed. Saturday was hot, and neither Louie nor I really wanted to be at the trial. He was distracted at the start line and pokey during the runs. I tried to generate some enthusiastic energy, but it just wasn’t working. So, I took the advice of one of my trainers and only did part of the courses to finish on a positive note. But my left knee felt a little funny. I rode my bike 50 miles on Sunday and felt fine, took a day off and rode again the next day as well with no problems. But when I tried to run in my Wednesday evening agility class, my knee really didn’t feel good, and was a bit swollen the next day despite ice and arnica. Ok, I wanted to nip this in the bud, so I spent the next 5 days doing rest, ice, compression and Advil. On Monday I made an appointment with the orthopedist and on Wednesday I started some PT.

Unlike biking, which is mostly comfortable and joyful, agility has had huge ups and downs from the beginning. When Louie and I run together as a team and have good communication and flow, it is thrilling and exuberant for us both. When I’m nervous about him getting riled up by another dog, or he is distracted or stressed and obviously doesn’t want to jump or follow me, it is completely frustrating and disappointing. He has had unpleasant interactions with other dogs both at our barn and at trial venues, and while he has gotten much more confident and relaxed overall, and I have gotten better at making him feel secure, I can never predict when some situation or dog will set him off to barking and lunging. I have to be on guard all the time, which is stressful for me. He can tell that I am stressed, which then makes him nervous, a vicious circle. I also have to be careful with our personal training and not do too much. Louie usually does better with short sessions and days off in between, but I need more practice and have to guard against my tendency to try “just one more time.” Our Wednesday evening class can be great fun, or frustrating. The teacher is very experienced, demanding, and no-nonsense, which I appreciate, but I have also enjoyed some private lessons with another trainer who is much more supportive and positive. And of course, whether we have a high or low agility day is mostly up to me and how relaxed and confident I am. 

It is humbling to be new and inexperienced and spastic at something when I feel pretty competent at most of the other things I do in my life. It is good for me to be challenged at something, but I also have to find the balance between striving and gentle consistent practice, pushing myself and taking it easy. I think my knee injury is telling me to dial it back and take it easy for a while.

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